A EUROPEAN DREAM Erasmus+ youth exchange

APIS Institute, The Inside Out Programme (UK), Lycian Pathfinders Youth Group (Turkey), Stichting Diversiteitland & ADYNE Netherlands (Netherlands), Civis Polonus Foundation (Poland)

Elerji, Slovenia, May 6.-14. 2017

»The European Union is facing an existential crisis.« - Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, 2016

How will the future of Europe look like? Will it enlarge to new member states or will it continue losing the old ones? Are all member states of the EU equally integrated or are there important differences between them? What are common European values and does the EU truly support them? Should the EU keep enlarging beyond the geographic borders of the European continent? How to deal with the refugee crisis, Great Britain's departure, the Greek economic crisis, the rise of nationalistic ideologies?

The youth exchange united 25 young people from The Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, Turkey and Slovenia.

These and many others were questions that participants of a Erasmus+ youth exchange »A European Dream« were trying to answer between 6.-14. May 2017 in Elerji, Slovenia. The youth exchange, coordinated by APIS Institute, united 25 young people from The Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, Turkey and Slovenia on the eve of the French presidential elections - a turning point for the future of the EU.

Participants used various methods of non-formal education to learn about the EU, exchange opinions about pressing EU matters and get to know cultural and political backgrounds of each other's countries.

In the first few days we used storytelling to lay the foundation for our future discussions. New questions have already arisen; should integration of European countries become even stronger? Should the EU become the United States of Europe? Do we feel 'European' enough to talk about a pan-European identity?

"Should integration of European countries become even stronger?"

"Do we feel 'European' enough to talk about a pan-European identity?"

"Should the EU become the United States of Europe?"

The discussion became even more heated in the next few days when we introduced debating methods to the exchange. We touched the topics currently in the EU's newsroom and discussed problems that the EU and the world might have to face in the future, such as the threat of ever greater automation and loss of many jobs.

Generation afraid of unemployment, automatisation and job losses.

We continued with the methods of the Theatre of the Oppressed; through acting and self-expression with our own bodies we explored the question of power and oppression in society, and the balance between trust and responsibility.

»I like the fact that we explore political narratives with different methods; thorough debating, acting, drawing…«, said Megan, youth leader of participants from Northern Ireland. »It's nice to see that participants are becoming ever more confident at expressing their opinion and that they also start to explore opinions that they didn't even know they had. While debating, we sometimes have to take the role of someone who thinks differently than we do, and so we get to know different perspectives. I especially loved today's workshop on Theatre of the Oppressed – first I was a bit nervous, but in the end I felt completely relaxed and natural.«

In ancient Greece - the cradle of Europe - a market square represented a space where citizens could publicly discuss the political questions of their time. Today the public discussion has mostly disappeared from market squares and was replaced by relatively private coffee sipping, groups of tourists and their tour guides as well as other forms of entertainment.

Today the public discussion has mostly disappeared from market squares and was replaced by different forms of entertainment.

And yet, on Friday several voices began to loudly express their questions and distress to the locals on three central squares in Ljubljana – Prešeren square, Town square and the Šuštarski bridge. The participants of the youth exchange concluded their program by using the public space in the center of Ljubljana to send a message with their bodies – with their heads in their hands, laying on the floor, raising banners towards passers-by, etc. – and speak to people passing by, from tourists to representatives of political elites. »Our generation is afraid of unemployment«, »Is Europe built on economy… or culture? « and »Would you vote for democracy?« were some of the questions they asked.

Using the methods of the Theatre of the Oppressed participants explored the question of power and oppression in society, and the balance between trust and responsibility. This are photos taken at public intervention that took place during the exchange in Ljubljana.

At least one of these was a question that participants asked themselves while debating in the days before the visit to Ljubljana. What is democracy? Do citizens of European countries even really want it? Are occasional elections enough for its existence? The debate heated up when we started thinking about very concrete problems of modern Europe; for example, is it acceptable that each European country decides about how many (if any at all) migrants they will accept, or should the EU decide about these numbers, and raise them in an attempt of solidarity even though that would not be democratic? Thus, are we prepared to 'vote for democracy'?

»Would you vote for democracy?«

These questions don't have a clear, easy answer, which is why we tried to make space for them in public space with the aid of our bodies and improvisations. »I found it interesting how we reacted to each other and how new stories began to form this way, « said Petra, a Slovenian participant. »I felt like I could observe my body with my mind, like the body was thinking its own thoughts and adjusted to other bodies in the group on its own.« Jordan from Northern Ireland was also impressed with the techniques of the Theatre of the Oppressed; soon he'll be on his way to a new youth exchange in Manchester where he can use his new skills and experience.

»Our generation is afraid of unemployment.«

After the intervention in Ljubljana participants returned to the seaside, where they spent the last days planning how to use their newly acquired knowledge and experience in future projects in their local environments.

Whatever the future holds for the group of young people, one thing is for sure; the youth exchange connected the group and we will keep in touch, sharing our thoughts, knowledge and opinions. We are looking forward to further collaboration in the future!

PROJECT DURATION: 1.2. – 31.5.2017

PROJECT PARTNERS: The Inside Out Programme (United Kingdom), Lycian Pathfinders Youth Group (Turkey), Stichting Diversiteitland and ADYNE Netherlands (The Netherlands), Civis Polonus Foundation (Poland), Zavod APIS / APIS Institute (Slovenia)

PROJECT COORDINATOR: Zavod APIS | APIS Institute | ww.zavodapis.si

PROJECT LEADER: Sara Širnik

Projekt je sofinanciran s strani Evropske komisije v okviru programa Erasmus+.

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